Monthly Column – April 2020 Top 3 Curiosities
Whether it’s gritty survival simulation or cartoonish, stylized action, we’ve got you covered with this month’s underrated games:
Help Will Come Tomorrow
by Arclight Creations
It’s probably not the best genre to be playing at the moment, given the real-life hardships of isolation and survival during a pandemic, but lots of us here at IGR love a bleak survival simulator, and this is the bleakest one we’ve come across since Sheltered.
Set during Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution, Help Will Come Tomorrow throws together a handful of strangers in the Siberian wilderness after a train bombing and robbery. You’ll be helping the former passengers survive not only the inhospitable wilderness itself but also the renegades who attacked the train.
All of the hallmarks of a depressing turn-based survival game are here: scrounging for mushrooms and bugs to stave off starvation; moss and twigs to feed the fire and stave off hypothermia; and scraps to cobble together makeshift tools and medical gear to tend to the wounded.
Help Will Come Tomorrow also adds morale and group psychology to the mix. Your survivors come from a variety of backgrounds, from manual laborer to soldier to aristocrat, and might be Tsarist supporters, Communist revolutionaries or neither.
Working on projects or going on expeditions to resupply the camp can change the dynamics between camp-dwellers, as can the occasionally heated conversations that take place nightly beside the fire, adding an additional monkey wrench to an already complicated machine.
Not only do you have hunger, exposure, injury, sickness, wild animals and murderous robbers to contend with, but now you’ve also got to keep the Tsarist military officer from coming to blows with the likable but opinionated drunkard and/or the Marxist college professor.
It’s extremely compelling, marred only by occasional translation issues (Arclight Creations is a Polish studio), and while it’s hardly a cheerful game, adjustable difficulty options allow a full range of approaches to play out, from merely depressing all the way to utterly hopeless.
by Not Yet
If dying of exposure in the most famously inhospitable part of Russia doesn’t appeal, WarriOrb might be a better choice.
While there are deaths aplenty – the game draws on both hardcore platformers and Dark Souls – the tone is lighthearted fantasy. Think something like Blasphous or Dark Devotion (which I covered in a previous Column of Curiosities) with the whimsy of Labryinth standing in for Medieval religious horror.
Between the fact that your character, despite being a demon summoned from the underworld, looks like a cross between a ninja and a bowling ball and the fact that everyone’s voices during the narrative parts sound like the wizards in Magicka, this is loaded with charm.
It’s also loaded with difficulty, with tough fights and even tougher jumping-and-rolling sections, but the exploration and secrets are enough that “let me just beat one more section” wins out more often than quitting in frustration.
by Zhang Fan
Mr. Fast is an absolute gem, simple in concept – you’re a gangster with superhuman speed, so it’s basically an isometric shooter with constant “bullet time” – and beautifully stylish in execution.
Combining the gritty simplicity of Walking Heavy with the ragdoll physics and music-driven action of 2019 Indie Game Score of the Year winner Ape Out, this is pure style, each level a microcosm of mood conjured by song and vision.
While technically set in Prohibition-era New York City, the game’s levels range from film noir shoot-out scenes to dreamlike abstraction, and a memorable soundtrack turns each into a unique – though thematically consistent – set piece.
Blasting gangsters in slow-motion to an a capella gospel song in the demo was enough to convince me to buy this, so imagine my joyful surprise as subsequent levels threw in everything from garage rock to Tom Waits-inspired no wave weirdness. Beautifully bizarre.